The end-of-year festivities are said to be “The most wonderful time of the year!” But for people with chronic illness, it often feels like just the opposite. While the holidays still carry a sense of joy, it is also filled with anxiousness, guilt, burn-out, and flare-ups. These feelings can be eased by setting proper boundaries during the holiday season.
Establishing healthy boundaries is typically done to protect your mental and emotional well-being, but it can also be done for physical health. Between parties, dinners, drinks with friends, family in town, shopping, this can all take a significant toll on someone with chronic illness. So let’s discuss how we can put boundaries in place so that you can truly enjoy the holiday.
What Should Boundaries Look Like?
No two persons’ boundaries are going to look the same. Additionally, your boundaries this year may look different next year. Here are some examples of boundaries you may want to establish:
- Passing on food items that don’t serve you well.
- Saying “no” to hosting out-of-town guests.
- Telling the host, you can’t contribute a dish this year.
- Letting your friends and/or family know you will be leaving early or can only stay for a certain amount of time.
- Not going home for the holidays.
How to Establish Boundaries
Figuring out what boundaries you want to set is easy, but things get a little more complicated when you put them into practice. First and foremost, never feel guilt for establishing a boundary, even if it makes other people uncomfortable. There is nothing wrong with putting your health first.
It is also beneficial to be firm and consistent when first establishing a boundary. This is in no way means you have to be rude! Instead, being firm means explaining your boundary clearly, and being consistent makes it easier for others to respect your boundaries.
When vocalizing your boundary, don’t forget your holiday spirit and goodwill towards all. What exactly does that mean? Be kind and offer an alternative if you can. Here are some examples:
- “That pie looks beautiful, but I’m not going to be able to try it.”
- “I can’t contribute a dish, but I would be happy to bring drinks or games!”
- “Tonight has been lovely, but I am going to head home now.”
Justifying your Boundary
Wondering how to justify your boundary to curious friends or family? Well, guess what? You don’t have to! Aunt Susan doesn’t need to know that you can’t eat her world-famous Yule Log because you have a gluten allergy or because your condition doesn’t respond well to too much sugar. No one needs to know why you have your boundary in place. So, how do you respond to, “Well, why not?”
- “Thanks again, but I’ve already made my decision.”
- “I don’t feel like explaining. Thank you for understanding.”
- “I wish I could, but I’m not going to be able to.”
If you are comfortable sharing your reasons for establishing a boundary, then go for it! Be as specific or as vague as you wish. Sometimes we choose not to explain our boundaries because we feel it may make others uncomfortable. But, if justification makes you feel better, don’t hold back to spare others.
Establishing boundaries with a chronic illness is essential for enjoying the holiday reason. There is so much that cannot be controlled in our day-to-day lives, but we can control the boundaries we set forth. Now that the holiday festivities are in full swing figure out what boundaries you need to establish. Practice how you will vocalize your boundary and decide whether or not you want to justify the boundary. You deserve to enjoy the holiday season, and establishing boundaries is the perfect place to start.